by Adam Carter, Disobedient Media:
Can we trust the judgement of think-tanks who have labeled Twitter users as part of a ‘Russian influence campaign’ as sound when those same entities provide little evidence, and their high-level members include former Clinton supporters?
At the beginning of 2017, an initiative was launched by a non-partisan think-tank called the German Marshall Fund US (GMFUS) under the name “The Alliance For Securing Democracy” (ASD).
During the Summer, ASD started working on a project they called the “Hamilton 68 Dashboard“, an effort that was presented to the public as a means of monitoring Russian disinformation efforts on Twitter, apparently boosted by research covering a three year period.
Over recent months, the press has reported on what the dashboard identifies as Twitter activity from those ASD have classified as Russian or, at least, involved in Russian influence operations.
Although some in the mainstream press have divulged the association between ASD and GMFUS, hardly anyone has disclosed the affiliations between those running ASD and special interests, or similar connections with the advisory board of GMFUS.
Methodology & Lack of Disinformation Classification
Obviously, with a contentious project such as the “Hamilton 68 Dasboard”, some people will immediately question the results and the first thing the doubters are likely to latch onto will be the methodology (or lack thereof). Reassuringly, ASD do provide details of the methodology and it does, on the surface, seem fair and reasonable.
However, while analytical methods for identifying associations and social media relationships are outlined, if you read it through to the end you may notice one thing missing. The methodology for actually classifying tweets as disinformation or part of a Russian influence campaign isn’t disclosed and neither are samples of what had been declared disinformation.
This is, of course, fundamental in assessing the veracity of the effort.
How can we be sure that those ASD deems to be “Russian Influence” aren’t just individuals who have expressed opinions or stated factual information that is politically inconvenient for ASD’s staff and advisory council (and others connected to GMFUS)?
The answer is that we can’t know for sure and are expected to trust their judgment. Unfortunately for them, events over the past week suggest that this is trust they don’t deserve.
Branding #ReleaseTheMemo As “Russian Influence” Backfires
On January 18, 2018, the US House Intelligence Committee held a vote and agreed to allow house members to view a classified memo relating to alleged abuse of FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) laws.
Later that day, Republican Senator Steve King stated via Twitter that he had read the memo and that it was “worse than watergate”, using the hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo in his tweet.
I have read the memo. The sickening reality has set in. I no longer hold out hope there is an innocent explanation for the information the public has seen. I have long said it is worse than Watergate. It was #neverTrump & #alwaysHillary. #releasethememo
— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) January 19, 2018
This was followed by Republican Congressman Mark Meadows posting a video of a statement issued on the house floor which he then shared on Twitter using the same hashtag:
I viewed the classified report from House Intel relating to the FBI, FISA abuses, the infamous Russian dossier, and so-called "Russian collusion." What I saw is absolutely shocking.
— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) January 19, 2018
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